New Jersey BridgeGate: Governor Christie's Aides' Wicked Abuse Of Power

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Christie was considered a Republican tower, compared to the likes of Bachmann

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Unconscionable Political Payback?

Last week’s revelation that a deputy chief of staff and associates of Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shut down portions of the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Mr. Christie, has opened up a can of worms for the presidential hopeful.

Some now question whether Governor Christie is a tyrant whose tactics are reflected by his staff.

Given the belligerent bullying incidents Governor Christie has been involved in before, isn’t it safe to assume his staff were performing their duties in a manner consistent with their boss’ personality?

On Tuesday, in the beginning of his State of the State address, Governor Christie spoke on the controversy surrounding the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. “The last week has certainly tested this Administration,” said Mr. Christie. “Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better... I am the governor and I am ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch - both good and bad. Without a doubt we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again.”

Quite frankly, Governor Christie comment that “mistakes were clearly made” just doesn’t cut it. Internal e-mails revealed people in his office, apparently, conspired to shut down lanes of the George Washington Bridge to punish the mayor of Fort Lee—and other stories of possible political payback are emerging.

This scandal screams of political payback and represents an unconscionably intolerable level of abuse of power. Here we have the governor’s political operatives deciding to—with not much care for the public hazard they created—to impede traffic on the busiest bridge in the world. Did these people care about the lives they were jeopardizing with this selfishly stupid stunt? What kind of public servants punish the public as payback against a politician?

This kind of petty politics demands serious scrutiny and the guilty parties should be publicly excoriated—and where warranted the guilty should be prosecuted for their reckless lawlessness and disregard for maintaining the public peace.  Reportedly, subpoenas are being written for multiple staff members of the governor’s staff, possibly, including Bridget Ann Kelly, Michael Drewniak, David Samson and Mr. Bill Baroni.

Ms. Kelly the governor’s former deputy chief of staff was “fired” last week. She should be asked what she meant in an internal e-mail when she said “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee?” and Mr. Baroni, who was a top Christie appointee at the Port Authority, who resigned, in December, should be compelled to tell what he knows.

The public deserves to know who hatched this putrid plot. The people also should know if this kind of conduct is a regular order of business among Governor Christie’s staff. The governor claimed this incident is an “exception” to the normal way things are done in his office. But how can he state this while he’s telling us he had no knowledge of this outrage being perpetrated under his nose? Moreover, several stories are now being told of other local politicians who were also allegedly punished for not endorsing Mr. Christie for mayor last year.

Recently, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop alleges he was rapidly punished for not endorsing Mr. Christie. According to Mayor Fulop, last September, after informing Governor Christie’s staff that he would not be endorsing the governor, previously scheduled meetings were abruptly cancelled—and requests to address Jersey City issues were rebuffed and ignored. "Cancellations include an entire day of meetings with state commissioners scheduled to be in Jersey City that was abruptly canceled, with each of the commissioners individually canceling within an hour of the time I communicated my intention to not endorse," Fulop said.

Governor Christie, by all accounts, is a presidential candidate for 2016. The conduct of members of Mr. Christie staff raises many serious questions about the character of those who serve in his office—and of Governor Christie himself. The governor has pleaded ignorance that people on his staff would engage in these kinds of egregious and probably criminal conduct.

Is this really believable?

One of the important persons of interest in this sordid scandal is Governor Christie’s high school friend David Wildstein who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which oversees the George Washington Bridge. Some of the documents that are now exposing the rats in Governor Christie office were received, by government officials and media, from Mr. Wildstein—who, reportedly, heavily redacted portions of the documents after he was forced to turn them over due to a subpoena. But one of the first questions to be asked here is: did nepotism lead Mr. Wildstein to obtain the job he had because of his longstanding ties to the governor?

Last week, while Governor Christie was claiming he had no knowledge about these affairs, his friend was busy refusing to answer questions being fielded by a legislative committee. Governor Christie pledged that “we will cooperate with all appropriate authorities.” Does this “we” include his friend Mr. Wildstein? If so, why is his friend ducking questions? Shouldn’t the governor compel his friend to fess up and testify to the lawmakers and public about what he knows about this disgraceful abuse of power and the public trust? Mr. Wildstein should tell us what he meant when he said “It will be a tough November for this little Serbian?” Was this a swipe at Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich, who is actually of Croatian descent?

Last week, while announcing the firing of Ms. Kelly, Governor Christie talked about not liking the “tone” of the e-mails. But that claims reeks of hypocrisy because the governor is known for being belligerent at times when he’s faced with hard questions regarding political policy and governance. Remember, back in 2011, when the governor told a woman it’s “none of your business” where he sent his kids to schools because that woman asked a question about his cuts to the public school budget? Did that exchange project the proper “tone” a politician should take when he’s being asked a legitimate question from citizens?

Remember, in 2010, when Governor Christie stayed at Disneyworld while a massive snow storm covered New Jersey? Remember him indignantly telling reporters the reason he stayed in Disneyworld was because "I made a promise to my children that at the end of my first year of governor that I was going to take them to Disney World?" When the governor of a state decides to stay on vacation while his constituents are in dire straits during an emergency crisis what should that tell us about his leadership qualities?

Nearly everyone agrees Governor Christie’s handling of Hurricane Sandy boosted his national political credential and helped craft his image as a bi-partisan get things done politician. His working with President Obama helped him in this regard—especially, since hard-right Republicans and Tea Party crackpots are so entrenched in racist politics against President Obama. But Governor Christie only looks like a reasonable leader when placed among the likes of Rand Paul, Michelle Bachmann and Ted Cruz—in the same way former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani only looked like a leader during 9-11 because President Bush was nowhere to be seen in the early days of that attack.

The outrageous conduct that was perpetrated on the public who were disaffected by the George Washington Bridge lane closures should be thoroughly investigated. And the questions regarding what Governor Christie knew and when did he know them should be far from over.

 

'Speaking Truth To Power' 

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